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APS Sends Letter to Biden Transition Team Outlining Science Policy Priorities

APS President Phil Bucksbaum outlines the need for stimulus funding, international collaboration, and immigration reform among other recommendations.

By Tawanda W. Johnson

APS has sent a letter to President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, requesting that he consider policy recommendations across six issue areas while calling for his administration to “set a bold path to return the United States to its position of global leadership in science, technology, and innovation.”

Authored last December by then-APS President Phil Bucksbaum, the letter urges Biden to consider recommendations in the following areas: COVID-19 stimulus support; international collaborations and research security; visas and immigration; domestic workforce; nuclear threat reduction; and climate change.

“Many of our recommendations align with plans you offered during the campaign and can be executed immediately, within your first 100 days in office, or as part of your initial budget request to Congress. Their implementation would dramatically improve the current state of America’s scientific enterprise and put us on a trajectory to emerge from the pandemic prepared to both compete and cooperate with our global counterparts,” wrote Bucksbaum.

Current APS President Jim Gates added, “These priorities will not only benefit the physics community, but they will, if implemented, lead to outcomes that could improve the lives of many Americans.”

White House

The recommendations, as stated in the letter, are as follows:

Stimulus Support for Scientific Community: Provide supplemental funding of at least $26 billion, as outlined in the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act, for the federal science agencies in any future COVID relief legislation.

International Collaborations & Research Security: To help achieve an appropriate balance between national security and the research requirements of open science, Presidential Directive NSDD-189 should be reaffirmed. The directive states that fundamental research is defined as research that is meant to be published in the open literature and that the products of fundamental research should remain unrestricted “to the maximum extent possible.” Classification should be used if control of particular fundamental research is required for national security.

Visas and Immigration: The following actions should be taken to help return the United States to a destination of choice for international students and scholars and ensure that employers are able to recruit and hire talented individuals from around the world:

  1. Immediately place a moratorium on the proposed rule “Establishing a Fixed Time Period of Admission and an Extension of Stay Procedure for Nonimmigrant Academic Students, Exchange Visitors, and Representatives of Foreign Information Media,” which is currently under development.
  2. Immediately reverse the interim final rule referenced as DOL Docket No. ETA-2020-0006, implemented by the previous administration, which is designed to inflate the salaries of H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants to the extent that their services are priced out of the US labor market.
  3. Work to reverse the deleterious effects on the R&D workforce of Presidential Proclamation 10052 put forward by the previous administration.
  4. Support and implement policies that allow international students applying for an F-1 visa to indicate they would like to stay in the United States after graduation and provide them a clear path to a green card should they choose to stay and work here.

Domestic Workforce: The following actions should be taken to help create a STEM workforce that more closely reflects the diversity of our nation:

  1. Immediately rescind Executive Order 13950 put forward by the previous administration and replace it with effective programs of training and education on diversity and inclusion.
  2. Develop incentives for our top research universities to create meaningful lasting partnerships that strengthen the research capacity at emerging research institutions, including minority-serving institutions (MSIs), tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and the colleges and universities with smaller research activities, which are often in underserved states.
  3. Encourage the federal science agencies to adjust grant application requirements as appropriate to account for the current pandemic’s disproportionate impact on female principal investigators.

Nuclear Threat Reduction: The following practical steps should be taken to reduce the nuclear threat:

  1. Sign a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Without this extension, the treaty will expire on February 5, 2021, leaving the United States and Russia without any nuclear arms limitations treaty or agreement in place for the first time in nearly fifty years. A decision by the presidents of the United States and Russia to extend New START would provide additional time and a stable foundation for further potential negotiations with Russia and potentially with China on new and more ambitious arms control arrangements. It also would contribute to the fulfillment of their disarmament obligations and commitments under Article VI of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
  2. Suspend all plans enacted by the previous Administration to prepare and proceed with a nuclear weapons test. The United States’ Stockpile Stewarding Program has “allowed DOE and DOD to certify the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile to the President without the use of nuclear explosive testing” for the last 23 years, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s FY 2020 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan.
  3. Strengthen US leadership in multinational efforts to curb global proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Climate Change: The following actions should be taken to reduce the emissions, and ultimately the concentration, or greenhouse gases:

  1. Include robust investments for basic scientific research across the appropriate federal science agencies as a central component to your plans to address climate change.
  2. Reverse the previous administration’s final rule published on September 14, 2020 titled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review” and return to the methane regulations established under the Obama Administration. Additionally, your administration should begin a process to accurately assess methane emissions as a means to curb emissions of this potent greenhouse gas. This should be undertaken as part of a national policy to achieve or exceed the target set by the Paris Climate Agreement of emissions reduction of 26 to 28 percent below our 2005 levels by 2025.

Mark Elsesser, Interim Director of the APS Office of Government Affairs, said the Society is eager to work with the Biden Administration to bring these recommendations to fruition. “APS has a long history of serving as a credible and reliable resource for policymakers in the White House and across the executive branch agencies. The Society will continue that trend under the Biden Administration and others to come,” he said.

The full text of the letter is available on the From the President page.

The author is Senior Press Secretary in the APS Office of External Affairs.

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